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Design Through a Decade: How Modern Graphic Design Has Changed in the Last 10 Years

5th December 2019

Adobe, the provider of popular graphic design software, has recorded record revenue for the last several years. In fact, they’re up almost 30% from 2017 alone. This suggests companies everywhere are investing heavily in their graphic design capabilities.

It seems you can expect more graphics in more places in the coming years. As a new decade comes to light, a new breed of modern graphic design is on the horizon. But to determine its future, we need to look into the past.

Which design fads dominated the ad space? And what will graphic design images look like a decade from now? Prepare for the aesthetic of the future by looking at the last 10 years of graphic design changes.

1. What is Graphic Design?

Everyone is familiar with the term “graphic design.” But few people know how graphic design differentiates itself from other types of artwork. After all, aren’t all illustrations composed of graphics?

The reality is graphic design is a unique, specified medium. It’s the culmination of illustrations, photos, and typography. These images are not just pleasant to look at, but also succinct and informative.

The definition of graphic design only came to light about 100 years ago, but it’s been around since the beginning of human civilization. The famous Rosetta Stone is, in fact, an example of ancient graphic design. You’re probably more familiar with modern takes, such as the Book of Kells or everyday posters you find in-person and online.

Throughout thousands of years, graphic design continues to dominate our lives. And why wouldn’t it?

An amalgam of symbols, text, and artwork has passed the test of time. It’s clearly better at providing information than words alone. As our society continues down a path of instant gratification, it’s likely graphic design will become even more prevalent.

Perhaps this is one reason why companies large and small spend much of their budgets on graphic design services.

2. 10 Years of Modern Graphic Design

Many sources will claim that the last 10 years of graphic design are without a pattern. They suggest that modern trends come and go so quickly, it would be impossible to give an accurate summary. Of course, this is far from the truth.

It’s difficult to detect large, sweeping patterns until years down the line. Still, there are some clear differences between the current decade and the one before. Let’s look at some fads and changes in recent years.

Minimalism

Less is more. After all the boldness of the 80s and 90s, there’s been a slow trend towards softer, simpler designs. There are two good reasons for this.

Companies use modern graphic design throughout their logos, websites, and other advertisements. In a world of harsh colors and complex images, it’s the simple ones that stand out most. Enterprising businesses have adopted minimalist designs to, ironically, set themselves apart from the competition.

But the consumers have changed, too. Years of visual noise have taken their toll. Seamless, smooth logos are a breath of fresh air.

Plus, they’re more appropriate for electronic devices, such as phones and tablets. If a company has an app — and they all do — it makes sense to use a similar motif in all design decisions.

The minimalist trend began in the early 2000s as companies adopted to displaying their logos on various devices. So far, it’s still going strong.

Vintage

From all the remakes of movies, games, and nearly everything else, the old was new again. Nostalgia dominated the market — and continues to, though it does seem the craze is dying out.

Graphic designers took advantage of this trend in the early and mid-2010s by incorporating vintage and retro designs throughout their works.

This was most notable in the types of typography used in consumer products. You can find Morning Glory and Lakester typefaces on beer bottles, shaving cream, and everything else.

Modern consumers associate vintage looks with high-quality goods. After all, they don’t make them like they used to.

In the last few years, the existence of vintage design has become more scarce. Some companies are still taking advantage of this style, but we won’t see much more of this in the new decade.

Gradients

Gradients died out somewhere in the early 2000s. But they started making a comeback near the end of the decade. You won’t find gradients on things like company logos, but they are on virtually every major website.

What’s with the resurgence? Flat design started coming back, too, but in a new way. Instead of a completely flat surface, designers used gradients to give the illusion of depth.

You’ll also find these gradients in geometric collages and the occasional advertisement spread. For now, it remains to be seen if we’ll see much gradients in the coming decade.

3. The Future of Graphic Design

Duotones started popping up in the final years of the decade. So far, they’ve mostly been used by large corporations. Duotones are a special type of gradient with complementary color combinations.

Since it seems like the natural successor to current trends, I think it’s safe to say duotones will dominate the coming few years.

What else? Expect low fidelity photography and muted colors. Older photos were often underexposed, which gave them a unique mood and sense of warmth. It’s the next step up from vintage artwork.

While abstract designs and large fonts are making a comeback, it’s too early to know if they’ll become a driving force of the next decade. We’ll have to wait and see.

A Brand New Look

New trends emerge from old traditions. Modern graphic design is a living, breathing organism, constantly adapting to its environment. In turn, the way companies present themselves through graphic design influences the way we see them, their products, and the world.

A small change in graphic design trends can quite literally change our sense of perception. And it seems the next decade will have a whole new look.

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Corey is an all round tech guru who has worked at some major blue chip companies. He started Poweronemedia to share his views and knowledge with the rest of the blogging world.